Alabama -3 4.4% play
As a Clemson fan I hate making this play. I think they are really disrepsected being an under dog here, but I think a deeper look at the match-up and it's rightfully so. Not only did Clemson get in a tough situation with the location of this bowl game being in New Orleans which is a major advantage to Alabama, but they have to go up against a highly motivated Alabama team that was almost left out of this playoff that lost to Clemson in last year's national championship. Nick Saban 10-2 in revenge games. Although I don't buy into the revenge angle a lot these days I think it certainly applies here.
Clemson, was lucky to win last year's bowl game, and lucky to cover the year before. It took their best two performances of the year offensively in those games and it was Deshaun Watson show. Mike Williams, at WR also was a key aspect of the win last year and they just don't have that guy they can throw it up to down the field. Kelly Bryant has been fantastic, but he's not as much of a thrower as Watson. Look out for Hunter Renfrow to be taken out of this game as he killed Alabama the last two years. Clemson played exceptional in their step up games against Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, and Miami, but 3 of the 4 teams that have played so far lost their bowl games. Virginia lost by 10, Miami lost by 10, and Louisville lost by 4 as a 7 point favorite over an SEC team. Last year it was evident that the ACC was ahead of the SEC. While I still think that's the case front top to bottom. I think the top tier SEC schools are a bit better than the top ACC schools. These two faced two common opponents in Florida State & Auburn. When you look at it Alabama faced them at the worse times. They faced Auburn on the road completely healthy while Alabama was missing 3 starting LB's. They faced Florida State in week 2 when they were ranked #2 in the country and still had their QB. Clemson faced Florida State at home with a freshman QB, and their season goals already lost. They faced Auburn on what I believe was neutral turf and before Auburn really found their offensive identity.
Yes, Clemson defense statistically was as good as Alabama, with a better pass rush and slightly more exploitable in run defense. I just don't see it being a good match-up for Clemson here against Alabama and their very good rushing offense which ranked #1 this year. Brett Venables also had issues stopping Alabama's offense the last two years with two different coordinators as Alabama scored 45 and 31 points. Alabama with more than 2 weeks to prepare has been very good offensively since 2012 in 11 games they averaged 35 points per game. These were all games against P5 opponents either in the playoff game or first game of the season. Alabama the last three years played Florida State, Wisconsin and USC to open the year.
The health of Alabama, the extra time to prepare, no Deshaun Watson, location favoring Alabama, the revenge factor are all reasons why I like Alabama to come away with the win and cover.
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